Dr. Thomas Brinsley Foley (1878-1931)
Thomas Brinsley Foley was born 27 February 1878 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island to Margaret O’Holleran and Thomas Foley. He was baptised the day after his birth in St. Dunstan’s, Roman Catholic, Basilica in Charlottetown.
Thomas Jr. had at least two other siblings: Josephine (1875) and Mary Ethel (1880). Thomas’ mother died in 1890 when Thomas was twelve years old. It appears that his sister Josephine died sometime around the same time as she cannot be found in any records after the 1881 Canadian Census.
Thomas received his early education in Queen Square school in Charlottetown.
From 1895-96, he attended Saint Dunstan’s University, Charlottetown, where he was regarded as an excellent and prominent football player.
After graduation, Thomas attended Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario where he received his MD in 1903.
Thomas continued his education overseas in England and Ireland, and upon completion he went to Australia as a Ship Doctor with two other physicians, Dr. McKinnon and Dr. Bayfield. During his time as a ship doctor, Dr. Foley would also serve in South Africa and other British colonies.
After Thomas’ journeys, he returned to Charlottetown for a brief visit and then went to Boston, Massachusetts, to practice his profession. According to his Declaration of Intention to become a U.S. citizen (Naturalization), Thomas arrived in Boston in October 1906 from St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The 1910 United States Census has Thomas living as a boarder under James and Mary Ruane with fourteen other people in their home at 752 Tremont St., Boston, Massachusetts.
In 1912, Thomas returned to Prince Edward Island for a short visit, travelling aboard the S.S.A.W. Perry from Boston.
According to his Declaration of Intention and his World War I Draft Registration Card, Dr. Foley’s appearance is described as fair complexion, five foot ten inches, brown hair and blue eyes and stout.
In the 1930 United States Census, Dr. Foley was living in Boston with his housekeeper Minnie. That same year, Thomas Foley fell ill but continued to work. The illness lead to his death on 12 November 1931.
An interesting medical story associated with Dr. Foley is described in his obituary in The Guardian on 13 November 1931:
[Dr. Thomas Foley] then went to Boston where he practised his profession with marked success and it was Dr. Foley who was credited some years ago of discovering a case of leprosy in that city.
In 1933, two years after his death, a $200,000 breach of agreement suit was filed against Dr. Foley’s estate. Catherine McCloskey Goodwin of Boston claimed that Thomas had agreed to marry her. She argued that Thomas had postponed the marriage due to ‘business conditions’ and promised to pay her $100,000 if she would not sue him for doing so.
As Mrs. Goodwin had not been paid $100,000 before his death, nor was she mentioned in his will, she felt that she had substantial cause to sue his estate for what was, in her opinion, rightfully hers. We have been unable to ascertain whether Mrs. Goodwin won her suit or not.
One thing that Foley did leave in his will was funds to his alma mater, Saint Dunstan’s University. His estate also donated a large book collection to Saint Dunstan’s. According to the St. Dunstan’s University Calendar of 1960-61, in 1949 a building was constructed on campus which included a chapel, a dining hall, a kitchen, a ten bed infirmary, and a convent for the Sisters of St. Martha. Foley’s donation is acknowledged in the Calendar:
the very generous bequest of the late Dr. Thomas Brinsley Foley of Boston, Mass., which rendered almost $41,000 in 1952, greatly assisted in the erection of this unit”.
That “unit” was later named the Steel Building and today it houses the Music Department of the University of Prince Edward Island.
The Provenance Collection at UPEI still houses several of Dr. Foley’s books. The Green Book, or Gleanings from the Writing-Desk of a Literary Agitator, written by John Cornelius O’Callaghan, was published in 1849. Inside Thomas signed, in red, “Thos Foley No.35”. Also found inside the book (between page 348-349) is a poem cut out from a newspaper. The poem was published as early as 26 November 1871 (as found in the Atchison Daily Champion, Atchison, Kansas):
Teaching Public School
Eighty little urchins
Coming through the door,
Pushing crowding making
A tremendous roar.
Why don’t you keep quiet?
Can’t you mind the rule?
Bless me! This is pleasant,
Keeping public school.
Eighty little Pilgrims
On the road to fame!
If they fail to reach it,
Who will be to blame?
High and lowly stations,
Birds of every feather,
On a Common level
Here are brought to together.
Dirty little faces
Loving little hearts.
Eyes brimful of mischief,
Skilled in all the arts
That’s a precious darling!
What are you about?
“May I pass the water?”
“Please may I go out?”
Boots and shoes are shuffling,
Slates and books are rattling,
And in the corner yonder
Two pugilists are battling!
Others cutting didos,
What a botheration!
No wonder we grow crusty
From such association.
Anxious parents drop in,
Merely to enquire
Why his olive branches
Do not shoot higher;
Says he wants his children
To mind their p’s and q’s,
And hopes their brilliant talents
Will not be abused.
Spelling, reading, writing,
Putting up the young ones,
Fanning, Scolding, Fighting,
Spurring up the dumb ones,
Gymnasts, vocal music!
How the heart rejoices
When the singer comes
To cultivate the voices.
Making out reports,
Giving object lessons
Class drills of all sorts;
Feeling like a fool---
Oh, the untold blessing
Of keeping public school.
Other Thomas Foley books in the UPEI Provenance Collection:
Guizot, M. Memoirs of Sir Robert Peel. London: R. Bentley, 1857. [Estate of Dr. T. B. Foley signed.]
Hay, Ian. The First Hundred Thousand: Being the Unofficial Chronicle of a Unit of “K (1)".” Boston ; Houghton Mifflin Company, 1916. [Nellie Maxwell 14 Elder St. Dorchester inscribed. Estate of Dr. T. B. Foley inscribed.]
Hazen, Charles Downer. Modern European History. New York : H. Holt and Company, c.1919. [Est. of Dr. T B. Foley inscribed. E. Bail? Signature.]
Quincey, Thomas De. Literary Reminiscences: From the Autobiography of an English Opium-Eater. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1868. [Special Notice for Harvie’s Lending Library. Thos Foley signature with the number 1 attached to it. Estate of T. B. Foley also inscribed.]
Jeffrey, Francis. Contributions to the Edinburgh Review. New York : D. Appleton, 1860. [Estate of Dr. T. B. Foley inscribed. T. Foley signature with the number 109.]
Lardner, Dionysius. Hand-Books of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy. Philadelphia: Blanchard and Lea, 1851-54. [T. Foley signature with the number 185 attached. Estate of T. B. Foley also inscribed.]
Martin, Theodore. The Life of His Royal Highness The Prince Consort v1-3. London : Smith, Elder & Co., 1877-78. [Estate of T.B. Foley inscribed and T. Foley signature (only in volume 1.)]
Pope, Alexander. Works Philadelphia: J. B. Smith, 1859. [Estate of Dr. T. B. Foley inscribed.]
Smith, Sydney. The works of the Rev. Sydney Smith. New York : E. G. Taylor, 1860.
1881 Census of Canada. Census Place: Charlottetown Royalty, Queens, Prince Edward Island; Roll: C_13163; Page: 106; Family No: 499.
1891 Census of Canada. Census Place: Charlottetown Royalty, Queens, Prince
Edward Island; Roll: T-6383; Family No: 655.
1910 Census of the United States. Census Place: Boston Ward 12, Suffolk, Massachusetts; Roll: T624_618; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 1435; FHL microfilm: 1374631.
1930 Census of the United States. Census Place: Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts; Roll: 945; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0136; Image: 297.0; FHL microfilm: 2340680.
“Teaching Public School”, Atchison Daily Champion, 26 November 1871, p.2.
“In Memoriam: The Late Dr. T. B. Foley.” The Charlottetown Guardian, 13 November 1931. P. 10. Accessed through Island Newspapers on 9 February 2017.
“Islanders Will Figure in Court Dispute.” The Charlottetown Guardian, 10 August 1933. Pg. 3. Accessed through Island Newspapers .
National Archives at Boston; Waltham, Massachusetts; ARC Title: Petitions and Records of Naturalization , 8/1845 - 12/1911; NAI Number: 3000057; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21.
Public Archives and Records Office of Prince Edward Island. Prince Edward Island Baptismal Records. Year: 1878. Record Book Number: 2. Book Page: 39.
“S.S.A.W. Perry Arrived in Port.” The Charlottetown Guardian, 16 August 1912. Pg. 1. Accessed through Island Newspapers.
Souvenir Booklet and Directory of all Students Registered since January 17, 1855. Published for the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of Saint Dunstan’s College, August 7-8, 1929, by the Executive Committee of the St. Dunstan’s Alumni Association.
St. Dunstan’s University Calendar 1960-1961, p.9. SDU Digital Archive. Accessed May 29, 2017.
U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Registration State: Massachusetts; Registration County: Suffolk; Roll: 1684882; Draft Board: 07